“Does it Come with a Spear?” Commodity Activism, Plastic Representation, and Transmedia Story Strategies in Disney’s Star Wars: Forces of Destiny

Continuing on from my previous research on Star Wars (and other related activities), I’ve had an article published in a special issue of the open access journal Film Criticism. I write about the Forces of Destiny Star Wars series on YouTube, addressing the tensions between Disney’s presentation of this girl-focused arm of the Star Wars universe and its reception by fans and consumers. In particular, I look at the ‘Adventure figure’ line of toys marketed with the series, tracing its ‘plastic representation’ within the broader contexts of Star Wars transmedia, commodity activism, and paratextual erasure.

The article is open access and free to read—you can find it at this link. You can also read a short excerpt from the article below:

Few films are more iconic and widely recognized than Star Wars (1977).[1] Now an international franchise with a forty-year history and a multi-billion-dollar box office and merchandising legacy, Star Wars has become a global phenomenon. Amidst ever-intensifying waves of film and television content, transmedia tie-ins, and merchandising outreach, it has become common to speak of Star Wars as though it is a universal constant. Not only can it be found everywhere, the reasoning goes, it is also something that can be enjoyed together by people of diverse ages and backgrounds. As Rogue One (2016) reviewer Rohan Naahar writes for the Hindustan Times, “Star Wars is for everyone; every boy or girl who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered if there are other worlds out there. It’s for every kid who has ever pretended to be a hero, saving the day, with his friends by his side. Star Wars belongs to us now.”[2] But what parts of the franchise are we talking about when we speak of Star Wars? And is it the franchise’s omnipresence that allows it to appeal to the kid—or the boy, as Naahar’s use of personal pronouns suggests—in everyone?

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Space Bitches, Witches, and Kick-Ass Princesses: Star Wars and Popular Feminism

Regular readers may remember my call for testimonials from other Star Wars fans, in which I asked ‘is Star Wars a boys’ club?’. The result of this research is now available as ‘Space Bitches, Witches, and Kick-Ass Princesses: Star Wars and Popular Feminism’, a chapter in a new edited collection.

You can read the chapter in full at this link, where it is available courtesy of the Utrecht University Open Access fund.

Read an excerpt of the chapter below:

Over the past few years, the Star Wars franchise has been widely praised for its feminism—especially since its acquisition by Disney in 2012. New heroes like Jyn Erso and Rey are hailed as feminist triumphs not just for Star Wars, but for mainstream entertainment more broadly. New characters aimed at a new generation of fans, like Rebels’s pink-clad fighter-cum-artist, Sabine Wren, and new novels devoted to existing characters like Leia Organa and Ahsoka Tano (from the animated series The Clone Wars),[1]are often cited by mainstream news outlets as part of a growing commitment to female characters, and to feminism by association. Likewise, thanks partly to its alliance with Disney’s princess powerhouse, the marketing force of Star Wars can now be felt as strongly in female-targeted sectors (make-up, fashion, dolls) as it is outside of them.[2]Does all of this mean, as one reviewer put it, that starting with The Force Awakens, Star Wars “finally awakens to a feminist world”?[3]Such assertions have certainly rubbed some long-time fans the wrong way—after all, women have made up a significant and vocal portion of the Star Wars fanbase from the beginning.[4]Moreover, one source’s assessment of what constitutes a “feminist world” (and of who is responsible for building it) is often fundamentally different from another’s.

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Global Media Management: Transmedia Experience (25 April 2018)

I’m currently hard at work as a Teaching Fellow in Digital Media Practice with the University of Southampton (Winchester School of Art). This means that I get to teach and organise all kinds of fabulous activities for our MA students in Global Media Management. The latest of these is has been a ‘transmedia experience’: a self-guided tour of film locations around Oxford, which formed part of the programme’s annual study visit.

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Studying the Force: A Star Wars Symposium

Next month I’ll be speaking at a Star Wars symposium in Portsmouth, hosted by the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries and organised by Dr Lincoln Geraghty. Celebrating Star Wars Day (4 May 2018) through discussion and debate, this symposium will offer us the opportunity to interrogate why the franchise has been so successful and how much it … Read more

Steampunk, Disability, and World Building

Last week I posted about disability in the Victorian age. This week, by some brilliant stroke of coincidence, I came across the following article on Steampunk Journal: In 2014, Mina was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. One of the significant symptoms is a weakness of the muscles which meant she required living aids to … Read more

Is Star Wars a Boys’ Club?

I have a special request for all my fellow Star Wars fans – but especially the ones who remember when it all started. I’ve got a couple of questions about the fandom and marketing that, as much as I already know, I’m just not up to speed on. It’s partly for a work project (more info … Read more

The Feminist Politics of Star Wars

This week started off with some exciting news: I get to draft a chapter for Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling, a collection of academic essays on the franchise edited by Dan Hassler-Forest and Sean Guynes. This collection is scheduled for publication in 2017, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first film … Read more